It smells like something’s burning. Is it my home state of California? Or is it Trump’s pants that are on fire?

Oh, that’s right — it’s both.

Two recent posts in President Trump’s Twitter feed left many Californians offended and confused.

The first tweet read:

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments! … With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get smart!”

Let’s point out the ways this is wrong — wrong factually and wrong morally.

These are not “forest fires.” That’s the first inaccuracy. Most of everything that has burned, and is currently burning, is brushlands, not forest. An important distinction since brushlands works as a kindling to the fire, feeding the flames at a more rapid pace than forrest’s could.

Even if we were talking about actual forests burning, Trump would still be wrong. Forty percent of all forest land in California is owned by families, Native American tribes and companies. State and local agencies only own 3 percent.

That leaves 57 percent of forest lands in California to be owned and managed by who? The federal government. So if Trump wants to blame fires on mismanagement of forests, he’d better look first at his own administration in the Department of Interior.

As for California’s management of brush fires (which is the actual problem we’re talking about here, Mr. President, not forest fires), the state has allocated $256 million this year alone toward lowering wildfire risk because, believe it or not, we consider it a priority to keep our homes and families safe.

When the fires were at their worst last week, Trump’s first instinct was to find an enemy to blame. Of course that enemy had to be the state that’s going up in flames. That not only overlooks the sacrifice and suffering of firefighters, it also shows his failure to acknowledge — or simple ignorance — of how the fires have harmed millions of Californians, not just people living and fighting directly in the fires’ paths.

In October of 2017 , my home town of Petaluma, California and its citizens were greatly affected by the fires. All the schools in my county were shut down for over a week due to low air quality. Many took the week off to volunteer at shelters all across town to help those whose homes were lost.

Air masks were mandatory, but even the medical-grade covers were not enough to stop the smoke from damaging people’s health. Many, myself included, contracted throat infections and ailments of all kinds. I spent eight months of my senior year of high school going in and out of the emergency room, on and off all sorts of painkillers, steroids and antibiotics, as well as missing what added up to nearly two months of school. This cycle stopped only after I resorted to getting my tonsils removed a couple weeks before my senior prom.

This year has brought more of the same. In fact, 2018 has been one of the most destructive years for wildfires in the state’s history with over 7,000 fires burning over one and a half million acres of land. Homes have been destroyed from north to south of the state. Everyone has faced the impacts, with the air quality reaching levels toxic enough to shut down schools in many areas once again.

Going after California is far from a foreign concept to the Trump administration, and neither is tweeting false facts. So are we really surprised by his actions? No.

Furthermore, it’s not hard to believe that Trump is threatening to cut federal funding for wildfire aid.

With the Camp Fire still blazing through the north, and the Woolsey Fire doing the same in the South, a little sympathy shouldn’t be too difficult to contribute, even for somebody who has a personal vendetta against the entire state.

The bottom line is this: People are losing their homes, their lives, their families, their friends, their safety and their communities. Firefighters are working tirelessly to contain the fires, and civilians are doing everything they can to recover. What we need now in California is support and aid. The last thing we need is criticism, and the rapid spread of false information.

This is not about politics. This is about people, and everything we can do in our power to help them.

wolffrg@miamioh.edu

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